The top seven things I wish I knew as a beginner guitar player

And how they would have helped me

My PRS SE Custom leaning against the piano

I : Learn “easy” songs

Coming straight from the piano when I started learning the guitar, it was very tempting to get to a similar playing level on the guitar as soon as possible. From watching the sweep picking techniques by the likes of Herman Li to the shredding solos of Slash, the pinch harmonics of Van Halen, it was all too easy to dismiss easier songs once I reached a comfortable level of playing.

II : Acquaint yourself with simple chords

As soon as I got an electric guitar, I very quickly abandoned chords in exchange for complex vibrato licks and technical solos; I never really learned how different chords fitted together with one another. As a guitarist it can be a very useful skill to whack a few chords together for somebody to sing or perform over.

III : Play in front of other people

This is a skill that a lot of beginner guitarists, myself included, work towards mastering. Playing something in front of your friends and family for the first time can be intimidating, since the spotlight is on you. You are the centre of attention, and everyone waits in anticipation for your serenade, as you struggle to form the first chord shape.

IV : Learn the notes on the fretboard

In my personal opinion, this is what separates the strong from the weak when it comes to playing the guitar. Even just by learning all of the notes on the 6th string (the thick one commonly referred to as ‘E’), you’re already ahead of a lot of guitar players.

V : Learn some basic theory

Even as a pianist in my early years of playing, my knowledge of music theory was absolutely minimal. I knew plenty of complex pieces that would amaze people, but when it actually came to understanding the instrument and being able to improvise, I was stuck.

VI : Don’t just stick to one artist

There’s nothing wrong with playing songs by artists that you like. After all, if it gets you to pick up your guitar and play, then I would encourage it. But soon you should consider looking at other artists, and aim to branch out your repertoire.

VII : Don’t be scared of it

This is arguably the best piece of advice that I can give to anybody who has just started playing the guitar. Learning new chords can be scary — there’s a lot of strange notation out there, it can feel like everything is being thrown at you at once and the thought that you’ll never be able to play the instrument will haunt you in the beginning, but if you stick at it, you’ll become greater than you can ever imagine.

I am a Mathematics and Statistics Undergraduate in the UK who is particularly interested in data science and programming in general.

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